Tag Archives: Integrity

Vegan Outreach – Proudly Creating… Vegetarians?!?

VO essay 001

The purpose of this essay is to apply critical thinking to how one large animal welfare corporation consistently engages in advocacy that is ineffective, purposely disingenuous and ultimately counterproductive to creating the only change for animals (to borrow a vague phrase they often use) that matters – a vegan world in which non-human individuals are not considered the property of humans.  If you are vegan and support/promote this or other large animal welfare corporations that employ similar speciesist tactics, I would ask that you research and reconsider whether you agree that we cannot hope to dismantle speciesism (or oppose any form of oppression) while continuing to engage in it.  If you agree, then the most sensible next step is to remove your support from such organizations and commit to unequivocal vegan advocacy.  A good place to start researching is by reading the informative articles on UVE Archives, many of which have been audio podcasted on How To Go Vegan.

On June 8, 2017, I received an email from Vegan Outreach entitled “You have to hear about Israel!”  Interested to see what VO was so eager to tell me, I opened the email and read their heartwarming tale (<–click here to read Israel’s story in its entirety) of a young man named Israel who was so “inspired… to change” by their compelling information that, two years after receiving their leaflet and having distributed 4000(!) leaflets to fellow students…

…he’s STILL not vegan.

Please note –  I do not view Israel’s choice to be vegetarian rather than vegan as a failing of any sort on his part.  He may well be doing the best he knows to do considering the information he’s been given.  After all, who could blame any individual for adopting a vegetarian diet after receiving VO’s blessing right there in their literature?  I do, however, see it as indicative of “Vegan” Outreach’s consistent failure to engage in anything that bears more than a passing resemblance to clear, consistent vegan education.

World-record-setting leafleter STILL not convinced to live vegan. Good work, "Vegan" Outreach!
World-record-setting leafleter STILL not convinced to live vegan. Good work, “Vegan” Outreach!

The Problem

VO essay 002
It’s hard to make a compelling case for veganism when you haven’t found compelling enough reasons to live vegan yourself.

As I explained in detail in my previous essay regarding Vague-an Outreach, their literature* is problematic in that it, among other things, promotes vegetarianism, contains information that misrepresents what veganism is (a “trend”, a diet) and does not promote veganism as what it truly is – our minimum moral obligation to individuals of other species [*the booklet critiqued in that essay, Compassionate Choices, has since been revised and remains speciesist in much the same way as the previous version.  I plan to critique the new version in the near future].  Here’s an excerpt from the essay:

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 the enslavement of non-humans 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.

With that in mind, I can’t say I’m surprised to learn that even Israel, their volunteer who helped them set “a new world record” (I’m sure the good people from the Guinness Book were on hand to authenticate that historic moment…) remains non-vegan two years after receiving his first pamphlet and after over 4000 more have passed through his hands.

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What are these “positive changes for animals”? Surely “Vegan” Outreach knows better than to believe vegetarianism falls in that category.

 

When a “vegan” organization that brings in nearly a million dollars a year in donations can’t/won’t produce literature with a clear enough message to convince their own star volunteer to live vegan (not to mention the conversations that one would assume have gone on between Israel and other VO personnel over those two years),  it’s hard to find faith that their efforts are very successful in convincing other less receptive members of the public to live vegan.

If, as the email says, every dollar donated “has the potential to create another story like this one” which means, in effect, that every dollar donated may result in a failure to educate another non-vegan to live vegan, then such donations only serve to exacerbate the problem of animal exploitation Vegan Outreach and other large, donation-based animal welfare corporations pretend to be working to solve.

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When non-vegans aren’t properly educated to make the one commitment that truly matters – to live vegan – then “change for animals” is not “slow”.  It’s nonexistent.  “Vegan” Outreach knows this, which makes their self-serving pleas for more donations to effect unspecified “change”, speed up “progress” and help reach mysterious and vague “tipping points” both manipulative and hypocritical.

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to say that, while I’ve never come close to setting any leafleting world records, I am guilty of having handed out many pieces of “Vegan” Outreach litter-ature in my first ten years of living vegan and engaging in what I mistakenly believed to be effective vegan advocacy.  Once I finally read the material and applied critical thinking to what I’d read, I was appalled at what I’d been foisting on the public and made the following vow:

 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 Solution

Veganism is:

“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.  In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”Vegan Society 1979

If we want people to live vegan, we have to promote veganism clearly and consistently, being careful not to equivocate, give mixed messages or enable the continuation of animal use in any other way.  The dismantling of speciesism, through living vegan and educating others to live vegan, gives us a blueprint for treating all individuals as we ourselves wish to be treated – with fairness, justice and the right to live autonomous lives, free from the enslavement of more powerful “others”.

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If you oppose at least one form of violent oppression because you recognize it is morally wrong, then to live in integrity requires opposing all forms of violent oppression because they are all morally wrong.  Speciesism, simply by virtue of having the largest number of victims and the highest death toll worldwide, is the most egregious form of violent oppression our world has ever known.  It’s time to dismantle speciesism, and the way to do that, again, is through living vegan and educating others to live vegan.

Violent oppression SFVEG poster 001

 

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

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

Disclaimer

 

 

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

Hello, friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total costs for 3 events = $1465.00

With gratitude,

Peacelovevegan,

Keith Berger & Elena Brodskaya
Co-founders, SFVEG

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

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

BeFairBeVegan.com

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

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

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

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[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.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

On Honesty and Consistency In Vegan Advocacy

reduction of cruelty SFVEG poster 001

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

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

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

  • “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.  In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”Vegan Society 1979

But isn’t vegetarianism a good thing?

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

“The Moral Problems with Vegetarianism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Briefly – “Don’t You Miss…?”

 

vegan sacrifice edited 003

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

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

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

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

On Moral Value, Objectification and Integrity

Two Scenarios – What Would You Do?

1) If you saw an obviously distressed barking dog locked in a car on a hot day, what would you do?  Would you look away and walk by as if nothing was happening?  Perhaps.  Or would you try the doors to see if you could open one and help the dog?  Would you look around for the owner of the car, perhaps going inside nearby stores and asking for help?  Or would you think about or even go as far as breaking a window to get the dog to safety?  After all, there’s a life at stake and you have the ability to save that life.

Still photo from 9/13/10 ABC News story of a potbellied pig rescued from a hot car. Not surprisingly, the news story used the word "sizzles", which is often used in conjunction with bacon.
Not surprisingly, this ABC News story from 2010 used the word “sizzles”, often used in conjunction with bacon, in this piece about a potbellied pig rescued from a hot car.

2) If you saw an obviously distressed squealing pig locked in a car on a hot day, what would you do?  Would you think, “Mmm!  Bacon!” and wait for him or her to cook to death, hoping the owner might share some of their carcass with you?  Would you look away and walk by as if nothing was happening?  Perhaps.  Or would you try the doors to see if you could open one and help the pig?  Would you look around for the owner of the car, perhaps going inside nearby stores and asking for help?  Or would you think about or even go as far as breaking a window to get the pig to safety?  After all, there’s a life at stake and you have the ability to save that life.

Moral Value

Pigs are not “bacon” any more than calves are “veal” or chickens are “drumsticks” or any other animal is only the parts humans deem useful – they are sentient beings and that fact does not change simply because some want to believe and behave as if the converse were true.  When societal “norms” allow for the devaluing of non-human animals to the point of no longer being viewed, treated and respected as living, breathing, feeling individuals deserving of autonomous lives free from being used as “things” merely to satisfy the fleeting pleasures of humans, an injustice is being perpetrated.

By analogy, women are not “pieces of ass”  – they are individuals and that fact does not change simply because some want to believe and behave as if the converse were true.  When societal “norms” allow for the devaluing of women to the point of no longer being viewed, treated and respected as living, breathing, feeling individuals deserving of autonomous lives free from being used merely to satisfy the fleeting pleasures of men, an injustice is being perpetrated.

If you agree that it is sexist and therefore wrong to objectify women (or children, or any humans) by using their bodies for one’s own purposes and find such behavior distasteful and unacceptable, then it only makes sense to agree that it is speciesist and therefore wrong to objectify non-humans by using their bodies, secretions and offspring for one’s own purposes and to find such behavior distasteful and unacceptable.  The fact that there is a difference in species does not indicate a difference in moral value between the two groups as they both share (at least) the common trait of sentience.

If one opposes at least one form of violent oppression because it is morally wrong, then to live in integrity requires opposing all forms of violent oppression because they are all morally wrong no matter who the victim is, regardless of (in no particular order) race, gender identity, species, sexual preference, age, physical ability or any other arbitrary criterion.

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Another Scenario – What Would You Do?

hot car baby

If you saw an obviously distressed screaming human baby locked in a car on a hot day, what would you do?   For most (if not all) people, there is only one answer – you do anything you’re able to do to help.  If your answer was not as clear and immediate in those scenarios in which the species of the trapped individual was other than human, perhaps it’s time to deeply explore how you have been indoctrinated into a society built on speciesism, blinded, misguided and conditioned by a lifetime of daily exposure to a multi-billion dollar propaganda machine that would have humans believe all other species are subordinate to our own and exist merely to satisfy our pleasure, comfort and convenience… and then explore how living vegan dismantles speciesism, realigns your morals and behaviors and restores your personal integrity.

One Final Scenario – What WILL You Do?

Knowing that living non-vegan means you are directly complicit in the violent oppression, enslavement, exploitation and execution of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human animals – and that living vegan is the simplest and most immediate action you can take to end that oppression (and your part in it)… what will you do? 

Here is what I hope you will do –

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

Dr. Oz Gets Real – Real Wrong – About Veganism

Dr Oz gets it wrong
Q: what’s wrong with this picture? A: “Plant protein” isn’t a separate category – all on the list are sources of protein!

Leave it to mainstream media to provide a continuous stream of misinformation about veganism.

Enter Dr. Oz.

[The segment can be viewed here: The Beginner’s Guide To Going Vegan Without Going Crazy – Originally aired on 1/26/2017]

Before I go further, I would like to state that there is a distinction between simply being critical for criticism’s sake (which I am not) and employing critical thinking and then responding appropriately (which I am).  In situations where erroneous ideas that further a particular injustice are presented as facts, it is incumbent upon individuals who see this to call attention to it and make clear to as many people as possible that what’s been presented is not as it may appear on its glossy surface.  It is crucial that we examine the information we’re given to determine its veracity and legitimacy, and to speak out when we find that it lacks credibility.  To do otherwise is to give tacit acceptance to the unacceptable and allow propaganda to flourish unchallenged.  I do not have a problem with Dr. Oz, as I’m not aware of his work (except for this) – I have a problem with his misrepresentation of veganism and would hope that other vegans would take issue, as well.

Dr Oz gets it wrong 002 missed steak
From the segment, a failed attempt at a clever animal exploitation-themed pun…

Programming

Having canceled our cable subscription over a year ago (just Interwebs and Netflix for us now), there is very little in the way of TV viewing in our home, so our exposure to much of what America is being programmed to watch is quite limited.  Of course, we still see people posting and sharing content online, so when I recently saw a slew of vegans sharing and resharing this segment from Dr. Oz (I’m only vaguely aware of who he is and had actually never seen his face or heard his voice prior to last week and am not surprised to learn that he was spawned into prominence by the never-vegan-and-never-miss-an-opportunity-to-be-an-opportunist Oprah), I took some time to watch it and see what the fuss was all about.  After all, everyone seemed excited that he was talking about veganism… or was he?

The answer, as we can see, is no.

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In 13-ish minutes of erroneously conflating the consumption of plant-based foods with veganism, there were ZERO mentions of the injustice of animal use as the primary reason for living vegan (“reasons” given included “eat cleaner, greener and lose weight” and other personal, humancentric concerns about “how you look and how you feel” – there was absolutely no discussion about animals).  Here are some other issues that make the segment problematic in its inaccurate portrayal of veganism:

  • The segment title suggests that living vegan is so difficult, it could drive a person “crazy”.  In reality, living vegan presents minor inconveniences that are easily adapted to and overcome once one realizes the ethical issues at stake and the ramifications of not expending the minor extra effort of, say, reaching six inches past the cow milk to the almond milk.
  • Four statements were made indicating non-vegan food is “real” food, thus insinuating plant-based food is “not real”.  Two statements were made indicating the plant-based food on set “doesn’t taste fake” and one comment was made upon tasting a plant-based option that “it’s good but it’s vegan”.
  • “Vegan” is disparagingly referred to by Dr. Oz as “the V-word”.
  • During the introduction of the “Gradual Meat Stepdown”, Dr. Oz stated “it’s hard to stop all at once”,  his guest agreed, “It is, it is!” and said she stopped eating bacon because “I learned how bad it is for us”.   She goes on to say that dairy/cheese and eggs “are the last one(s) that people play with” as they’re cutting out animal products.  I find it difficult and disrespectful to hear someone blithely refer to products born of the slavery and death of vulnerable individuals as things “people play with”.
  • Dr. Oz offered the following “definition” for “what it really means to go vegan – well, simply put, nothing from an animal – nothing with a face is going in your mouth.  There’s no meat, there’s no fish, there’s no dairy or eggs”… but there’s also no mention of honey or any of the myriad other ways animal are exploited such as wearing leather, wool or silk or supporting animal-based entertainment, etc.  [for more information on these issues, please visit the What’s Wrong With… section of HowToGoVegan.org].  Once again, veganism is misidentified as being only one of its components and wrongly defined, which only helps further public confusion about what veganism truly is:

“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.  In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”Vegan Society 1979

  • Dr. Oz went on to further the erroneous idea that living vegan is something to be feared rather than a personal ethic to embrace by saying, “You can actually mimic these tastes so you don’t actually feel like you’re going meatless, which is what people fear the most.”
  • Dr. Oz also glibly referred to the non-vegan taste tester as the “victim”, when in reality the body parts of the true victims of exploitation and oppression were spread out on the table and eaten by this person.  I found it personally unsettling  and unnecessary that there were slabs and piles of dead animal parts and secretions on set for people to taste-test alongside plant-based options.  This has the effect of further normalizing the consumption of products of animal exploitation and presents “vegan” (read: plant-based) foods as just another set of options.

13 seconds into the segment, Dr. Oz says “Let’s be real”.  Yes Dr. Oz, let’s.  Veganism is not a diet, a lifestyle (as he calls it in the first 3 minutes), a fad or a phase – it’s a personal commitment to stop participating in the enslavement, exploitation and execution of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human animals.

When talking about a plant-based diet, call it what it is and, of course, provide facts, tips and ideas to help people understand its benefits – just don’t call it veganism, because it’s not.

Like many I see on social media, I used to excitedly share every incident of the word “vegan” being used in any context just to “get the idea out there”, but not anymore.  I have come to understand that when the word is coupled with an unclear message that distorts the true meaning of veganism (or one that promotes speciesism, racism, sexism, misogyny, ableism, classism or any other form of oppression), it is better that it not be shared so that I don’t act irresponsibly by adding to the confusion and misinformation that unfortunately already follows the word wherever it goes.  I hope others will come to do the same.

If we’re going to be real, we need to offer real information about veganism as our minimum moral obligation to individuals of other species, sticking to the real definition of veganism and taking real action to dismantle speciesism through educating non-vegans about veganism.  When we do, we will start making real change and saving real lives.

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

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

On Defining Veganism

Vegan Musings - defining veganism
Image shared with kind permission of Vegan Musings – www.facebook.com/ThoughtsPicturesPoems

What is veganism?

A wise person once said, “It is what it is… and it’s not what it’s not.”  In the interest of dispelling some common myths and misconceptions, let’s begin with what veganism is not.

Veganism is not:

  •  a vague concept open to a vast array of interpretations that has “as many definitions as there are vegans”.
  • It is not a “diet”, a “lifestyle”, a “fad” or a “phase”.
  • It is not a lofty, seemingly unattainable goal at the end of a long and arduous “journey” (if veganism is any part of a journey, it’s the first step on the path toward living a life where justice is a priority and morals matter, not the last step).
  • It is not some “moral high ground” or a (faux) ivory tower from which one claims superiority over those who are non-vegan.
  • It is not a game where one makes up one’s own rules and “cheats” when the mood strikes.
  • It is not a “menu choice” or cuisine option.
  • Veganism is not the same as vegetarianism, which is the arbitrary exclusion of one or more animal products from one’s diet while continuing to consume other animal products and/or secretions  (thereby promoting some animal exploitation rather than all animal exploitation) and there is no such creature as a “vegan-vegetarian” or “vegetarian-vegan”.  To refer to oneself (or someone else, or a diet) as such would be like saying, “I flew here in an airplane-helicopter” or “Look at that beautiful elephant-walrus!”.  The fact that the two may have similarities does not make them synonymous or interchangeable.  Just ask any walrus who’s had an unwanted encounter with an overstimulated elephant…

elephant-walrus tattoo

To treat veganism as anything other than the definition that follows is to confuse some very important matters and is a tremendous disservice to the non-human individuals whose lives depend on presenting and maintaining a clear, consistent vegan message.

Veganism is:

  • “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.  In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”Vegan Society 1979

Please note that, in the definition, the dietary aspect of veganism is mentioned secondary to the ethical aspect.  This is not an accident or an oversight.  It is intentional and for good reason.  While there is an obvious and important dietary component to living vegan, it goes much deeper than mere food choices.

ethical-position-002-bfbv
 

If we are to educate others about veganism, it’s incumbent upon us to not only have a clear understanding of what veganism is, but to make sure we’re able to convey that message clearly and consistently by not intentionally or tactily promoting what veganism is not.  We need to say what we mean and mean what we say (and not say it mean!) if people are to understand the information we’re trying to give them because, again, billions of innocent lives are at stake.

The simplest and most immediate action one can take to stop the violent oppression of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human individuals – is to start living vegan, as this is the primary means of dismantling speciesism and moves us toward achieving the abolition of animal enslavement and exploitation for human pleasure, tradition and convenience.  If you are already vegan, please educate others about veganism.  If you are not vegan and believe that animals matter morally, please consider living vegan as it is the choice that matches your morals.

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

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

Clear, Consistent Vegan Education WORKS!!! Here’s Proof!!!! Ex!Clam!!Ation!!!Points!!!!

[NOTE: I plan to update this essay from time to time to include more feedback from individuals who have responded positively to South Florida Vegan Education Group’s (SFVEG) ongoing public education efforts.  Stay tuned – it’ll be worth it! 🙂 ]

eb-talking
SFVEG President Elena Brodskaya – vegan education in action!

After ten years of engaging in single-issue animal welfare campaigns, I have zero evidence to suggest that any action I took in that time helped influence a single person to begin living vegan.  One reason is that most, if not all, of those campaigns are organized by large donation-based animal welfare charities (you’ve heard of them even if you’re not vegan – their expensive marketing budgets have seen to that) whose primary agenda is not to influence people to live vegan but rather to ensure the continuation of a steady stream of donor dollars from their largely non-vegan donor base by being careful not to alienate them.  This is achieved by actively avoiding using the word “vegan” (or downplaying it, or being vague about its meaning and importance) and certainly not presenting veganism as the moral baseline for our treatment of individuals of other species.

Since I refocused my advocacy and, with co-founder Elena Brodskaya, that of South Florida Vegan Education Group (SFVEG) and committed to engaging in clear, consistent, unequiVOCAL abolitionist vegan education, we keep receiving feedback that people are committing to living vegan as a direct result of our conversations, presentations and associated work.  I don’t have the words to express how gratifying and humbling it feels to know that what we do actually makes a positive and meaningful difference in the world.
Here are some examples we’ve compiled of feedback we’ve received:
jeffrey-sturgeon-became-a-vegan
Shared with permission

 

jackie-o-goes-vegan
Shared with permission
jackie-o-goes-vegan-update
[here’s an update from 8/10/16] Shared with permission
laura-gs-brother-became-vegan
Shared with permission
going-vegan-marcia-lefkowitz
Shared with permission

Thank you to all who support me and our group in these endeavors, and a special thanks to my friends Ramona Reichert for gently (ok, not so gently 😉 ) shaming me into opening my vegan mouth on Facebook and to Colin Wright for gently (ok, not so gently 😉 ) nudging me out of the black hole of welfarism and being the first to point me toward abolitionism.  I am deeply indebted to you both.

Lastly, but mostly, thank you to my love, Elena Brodskaya, for walking this path hand-in-hand with me and for being my greatest influence and inspiration, my constant sounding board and for gently (yes, so very gently <3 ) letting me know when I need to come back from some tangent I’m on and get back on the path.

If you’re not vegan: please ask yourself why and then ask yourself whether your answer(s) would hold up and be justified if the helpless victims from whom you receive palate pleasure and other benefits were human.  If you feel they would, let’s talk about that.  If you feel they wouldn’t, let’s talk about that, too.  Either way, I’m truly interested to hear your thoughts and have a discussion.  Really.  For realz.  No kiddin’ around.  Mean it.

If you are vegan, I’ll leave you with this: clear, consistent, unequivocal abolitionist vegan education works, and it’s far more effective than engaging in campaigns that profess to have the best interest of animals in mind, yet in reality exist to serve their own ends through endless self-promotion, donation solicitation and putting out small fires while ignoring the larger source of the blaze that’s been burning the world to the ground for centuries.  Sadly, when we work to reduce – but not eliminate – animal suffering (as is the hallmark of the welfarist organizations), there’s an unintended consequence — non-vegans keep eating animals, only now with a clearer conscience and no reason nor desire to ever stop.  If you’re afraid to be direct and honest about veganism, I challenge you to move through the fear and do what you know is right.  After all, your “fear” is nothing compared to the real fears being felt right now by the animals we all want to save. To operate from fear in this light helps no one.  In fact, as a form of enabling, it only serves to cause more unnecessary suffering to all involved.

From my heart to yours, thank you for listening.

Peacelovevegan,
Keith

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

www.HowToGoVegan.org
www.VeganEducationGroup.com