Imagine you and your family are traveling in a foreign country that considers people from your country to be of an inferior race, and that the country’s economy is based on capturing, enslaving and ultimately murdering citizens of your country once they’re no longer useful with no serious legal repercussions other than an economic inconvenience here and there and a couple of low-level patsies losing their jobs after some undercover video evidence of “horrific practices” is leaked (but soon finding jobs in similar situations), mostly slap-on-the-wrist stuff leading to promises to “be more humane” and assurances that “We had no idea about these isolated incidences, we are appalled!”.
Imagine you’re all taken hostage and your captors’ stated intentions are that the males in your family are to be put to hard labor, tortured and then executed and the females kept alive to be tortured, raped and forced to produce more offspring for enslavement (again, eventually everyone’s executed once their “productivity” wanes) and keep the cycle going for generations, as has been their common practice for years. Now, as one of the hostages (pick a gender), would you want, need or be in any way satisfied with advocates working to get you “improvements” such as a better view while you wait to die, a smaller blowtorch with which to be tortured or a more comfortable bed on which to be repeatedly raped? Doubtful. If those are the goals for which they advocate, they might as well help sharpen the killing blade while they’re at it to make your death as painless as possible (another “improvement”, some might say) because, inevitably, death is what’s coming.
If I and my family were taken hostage in such a scenario, our instincts for survival and sense of self-interest would dictate that we would want someone to come to the rescue and get us the hell out of there as quickly as possible. While that would provide immediate relief to us, it would create a vacancy soon to be filled by others (the repercussions of which will be discussed two paragraphs from now). And what becomes of those held hostage alongside us and those who will find themselves in the same situation in the months, years and decades to come? While rescue has its benefits to those being rescued, it would be much more important to educate these people (and the world) that this behavior is morally unacceptable on every conceivable level and that my race deserves equal consideration as their race – which means the right not to be used and abused by anyone as their property – thus shifting the paradigm to bring an end to this cycle of ritualistic, systematic, psychopathic abuse and needless, unjustifiable killing.
But the scenario I’ve just described isn’t a simple hostage situation and this isn’t happening to us – it’s happening to animals.
What I’ve described is what humans do to individuals of other species by the billionsevery year across the world. And what we would NEVER knowingly or willingly allow to happen to humans for any preventable length of time, we keep allowing to happen to animals. In fact, we demand it with our dollars. “But we’re really trying“, say those who, with all good intentions, implement, support and engage in single-issue, welfarist campaigns designed to minimize – as oppose to end – the injustices we regularly impose on non-human animals (there’s a saying in certain circles that “trying is lying”). Our current laws consider animals our “property”, which gives them no real rights ever and essentially gives permission for humans to do as they please to non-humans. There is no “negotiation” to gain freedom for these individuals, as they are someone’s property and there’s nothing illegal about confining them against their will, as there is with kidnapping humans. In fact, if one rescues an animal from such a situation, the “rescuer” is the one who has broken the law. Since changes in law follow social change rather than the reverse being true, when we advocate for anything less than living vegan we engender, foster and support speciesism, a double standard (analogous with racism and sexism) created by humans placing higher moral value on some individual animals over other individual animals, based solely on the morally irrelevant criterion of species membership. It would logically follow that those who do not support racism and sexism would havea moral obligation not to support speciesism, and yet, people of seemingly good moral character continue to do just that, offering no better reasons than palate pleasure, comfort, convenience, entertainment and habit – in short, selfishness.
The Repercussions of Open Rescue
There is another factor that should be considered in scenarios where animals are removed from facilities that confine and use them for profit, a form of direct action “activism” that has again become fashionable – and financially lucrative – under the designation “open rescue” as coordinated by various animal “welfare” corporations who intentionally do not focus on unequivocal vegan education but rather take a scattershot, every-little-bit-helps approach to “saving the animals”. As long as non-human animals are considered property/things and disposable, replaceable economic units, then every animal “rescued” from such facilities will be replaced by at least one other individual in order to restock the shelves and keep the system rolling along and profitable. In order to bring in the replacement(s) for the one(s) rescued, someone needs to be held captive and forcibly impregnated with sperm forcibly obtained by someone else held captive (which is, without argument, interspecies sexual abuse) and another someone needs to be born and forcibly removed from their mother to be used to fill that newly empty space in the facility. So, sadly, while one individual has been granted some sort of freedom (and hopefully brought to a sanctuary, though that’s never a guarantee), at least three more will have been exploited and nothing will have changed in terms of shifting the current paradigm of animals-as-property.
Although they tug at one’s heartstrings, the reality is that the net result of “open rescues” is more exploitation and more death, rather than less, which would indicate that these forms of “activism” are ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst.
They do, however, successfully tug at purse strings and result in an uptick in popularity and donations for the animal welfare organizations that coordinate these counterproductive activities:
Please read this essay from Legacy of Pythagoras that examines Direct Action Everywhere’s (DxE) misguided philosophy and strategy:
The solution to the problem of animal use is to dismantle speciesism through clear, consistent vegan education.
For those who are afraid of “driving people away” by unequivocally advocating veganism, I find this fear to be unfounded and without merit. If anything about vegan advocacy “drives people away”, it isn’t the idea of veganism; it’s likely the method by which some individuals aggressively and abrasively present the simple, gentle, logical idea of living a nonviolent vegan life. Isn’t it time we stopped operating from fear and just did what we know is right according to our own morals and ethics? Fear is the driving force behind every atrocity the world has ever known, including the animal holocaust we’re dealing with here. Einstein (by all accounts, a pretty bright fella) is quoted as saying, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.
If you’re “afraid” to be direct and honest about veganism, I challenge you to move through the fear and do what you know is right. After all, your “fear” is nothing compared to the real fears being felt right now by the animals we all want to save. To operate from fear in this light is to operate from pure selfishness and ego, and that helps no one. In fact, it only serves to allow more injustice, unnecessary suffering and death to all involved.
[I encourage all readers to click the blue linksembedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimerregarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]
[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimerregarding 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 VegetarianStarter 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 Outreachasked 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 President
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 neverbeen 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.
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 grantsand 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 crueltyevery 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 humanelybefore 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 propertyand 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:
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 immediatelystop participating in and benefitting from systems of oppression that result in the unnecessary harm and death of these sentientbeings. We stop paying others to do what we know is wrong, and we stop doing it ourselves. In short, we start living vegan.
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 speciesistin 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.]
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, consistentabolitionistvegan message that allanimal 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.
We are passionate about empowering individuals with the knowledge that veganism is the primary means of dismantling speciesismand 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):
[I encourage all readers to click theblue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]
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.
The problem is not how we exploit animals – the problem is thatwe exploit animals in the first place, so the solution is not to reduce animal abuse; it’s to eliminate animal use… and that solution lies in educating people to live vegan.
If you’re a bank robber and one day realize that robbing banks is morally wrong, you don’t seek better ways to rob banks – you just stop robbing them (unless you’re determined to be a criminal and are willing to pay the consequences if caught, or a sociopath and can’t determine right from wrong). To paraphrase the Roman philosopher Seneca’s wise words, there’s no point in trying to find the right way to do a wrong thing.
Meatless Monday – A Toothless Campaign
According to my research, the idea of Meatless Monday began nearly 100 years in the United States as a way to ration food to help with the war effort. It was revived in 2003, according to www.meatlessmonday.com, as a “public health awareness campaign” in order to address “…the prevalence of preventable illnesses associated with excessive meat consumption.” On their “Why Meatless?” page, in 11 paragraphs and 796 words, there is nothing that speaks about the suffering, confinement, enslavement and slaughter of the non-human animals the campaign is suggesting people abstain from eating one day a week. This campaign is clearly not part of any social justice movement intended to help abolish the property status of animals, nor to help any animal in any way – unless that animal is of the human variety and wants to optimize her/his health, as its stated aim is to help humans lower their risk of contracting preventable chronic diseases linked with the consumption of animal products (heart disease, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, to name a few). In short, Meatless Monday is rooted in the same self-centered egotism, speciesism and myth of human supremacythat allows humans the self-proclaimed “right” to destroy the lives of non-human animals wantonly and with no regard for their well-being, feelings or right to live autonomous lives without human interference.
Even though it’s clear that the Meatless Monday campaign has nothing to do with helping to bring an end to the exploitation of non-human animals (even though some people claim every meatless meal “saves” X-number of animals, as if skipping a hamburger results in, somewhere, a cow being magically transported from a slaughterhouse to a sanctuary), many vegans – including high-profile celebrity “vegans” – lend their names to and continue to support this campaign, rationalizing that it is “part of a journey” toward veganism –even though it promotes a version of vegetarianism rather than veganism. Some seem to believe it’s necessary to encourage non-vegans to take “baby steps” and that “every little bit helps”.
Eating plants won’t save animals. Dismantling speciesism to abolish animal use will save animals.
It’s my contention that one does not encourage people to practice ethical behavior only when personally convenient or in accordance with some arbitrary set of rules. Coddling those who continue to exploit others when they are well aware that their choices and behaviors condemn individuals to miserable lives and horrific, unnecessary deaths is simply unacceptable. We would never suggest that serial killers take “baby steps” and observe Murder-Free Mondays, would we? Of course not. We would explain to them why their behavior is wrong (assuming they didn’t already know) and demand they stop at once or face dire consequences. What consequences do we impose on those who pay others to do their killing for them so they can dine on the carcasses of vulnerable animals? None… but Nature does (see preventable chronic diseases listed above).
“Meatless” Does More Harm Than Good – From the Industry’s Own Mouth
Further, asking non-vegans to go “meat-free” may do more harm than good as it has been shown that people who give up meat for a short time tend to increase their consumption of animal secretions such as dairy and eggs to offset their deprivation of meat through that time period. Here is a quote connecting “meatless” campaigns and rises in egg demand and consumption from a 2015 interview on the Diane Rehm show (the specific audio clip comes at about 43:23, a courtesy for those who don’t want to sit through listening to rationalizations and justifications abouteggs and “welfare”):
“Just back to that other question about the ‘Meatless’. One of the reasons why the egg industry and demand is (sic) going up is because a lot of the families, like one day a week, are having meatless dinners and they’re substituting eggs for that meatless meal, so that’s another good reason why the egg consumption is going up in this country.” – Paul Sauder, president of Sauder Eggs, chairman of the American Egg Board and a board member of United Egg Producers
Interestingly, if that’s the effect of only one meatless meal per week, the net effect of an entire meatless day (3-5 meals?) such as on Meatless Monday or an entire meatless week would be to cause an even greater increase in egg consumption.
By encouraging non-vegans to take just one day off per week from a particular form of animal use, tacit permission and support are given for them to continue their use unabated the rest of the week. Is that really the message we want to give, whether directly or indirectly? Supporting animal exploitation 6 days a week instead of 7 is like supporting spousal abuse 85% of the time instead of 100%. Who does that?? Answer:
Perpetrators who want to get away with what they can whenever they can, that’s who.
There are those who support the baby-step “journeys” of non-vegans to become vegan – some of which take 2-3 decades or longer – and suggest we should “give them a break, they will eventually arrive”. While I understand that not every person will go vegan overnight (though many of us have), we vegans must remain clear that this is their choice and not our suggestion, remaining unequivocal that anything less than embracing veganism as the moral baseline for our treatment of individuals of other species is to continue being complicit in animal exploitation and needless death. For the billions of non-human animals who suffer and die waiting for “eventually” to happen, “eventually” is unacceptable and arrives much too late. If we see a woman being raped, we don’t go help her “eventually”, nor do we wait for the rapist to complete his “journey” to living a rape-free life, asking him to maybe rape a little less every day and applauding him when he goes a whole day without raping anyone.
What drives some people to accept such an unacceptable double-standard when the victims are non-human animals? The answer is speciesism, the most egregious and deadly form of oppression in existence on our planet today.
Veganism should be the starting point on a journey to live as ethically as possible, not some future goal to attain when one is finally ready to live nonviolently.
Some ask why this same debate repeats every “Meatless” Monday, so here’s why:
Every Monday, some people take a mere 16 hours off from participating in an endless worldwide animal holocaust and actually seem to believe this is somehow commendable and effective. During the Holocaust, I’m sure all the Nazis took naps now and then. That didn’t help their victims at all because, after nap time was over, the terrorism and killing continued. The sad reality of this ineffectual campaign is that every Meatless Meaningless Monday is immediately followed by Return to Terrorism Tuesday and We Keep Killing Wednesday (and on through the week). Imagine if there were campaigns for Rape-Free Fridays or Child Abuse-Free Thursdays – would we applaud those well-intentioned baby steps too? Isn’t it a better use of our limited time, energy and resources to work on creating Exploitation-Free EveryDay by consistently promoting veganism?
If we as vegans refuse to commit to a 100% effort toward clear, consistent, unequivocal vegan education, how can we expect non-vegans to commit to a 100% vegan life when, by engaging in and promoting speciesist single-issue campaigns, we’re essentially giving them permission to exploit animals most, but not all, of the time?
Baby steps are for babies. I challenge my fellow vegans to be the adults we are and stop promoting reduction over abolition, which only makes the unacceptable seem acceptable and maintains the speciesist status quo. This behavior is known as enabling and, the sooner it stops, the sooner real change begins.
If you’re already vegan, please stop making it OK for others to continue destroying the lives of non-human animals by lending your support to half-measures like Meatless Meaningless Monday and the other useless, ineffective and counter-productive single-issue campaigns promoted by animal welfare organizations that treat “vegan” like a dirty word. Instead, let’s focus our efforts on clear, consistent vegan education wherever and whenever we can, being unequivocal about the idea of veganism as the moral baseline for our treatment of the animals with whom we share this small planet.
[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites.]
I received a marketing email recently from animal advocacy group Donations Over Animals Compassion Over Killing asking me to “Take the 7-Day VegPledge“. They state they are “empowering thousands of people to pledge to choose vegetarian foods for at least seven days” (as if anyone needs to be “empowered” to choose to eat vegetables), making the case that, since there are …”52 weeks in a year… Why not make one of them meat-free?” and that “Every time we choose a meat-free meal, we can protect our health, the planet, and animals!” As usual, the animals have been placed last on the list behind human self-interests.
When we put COK’s “VegPledge” message in the Reality Machine, here’s what we see:
Asking people to go “meat-free” one week out of 52 is the equivalent of asking them to cease their complicity in only one form of animal exploitation 1.9% of the year, leaving the door open to continuing to consume animal flesh (and seceretions) the other 98.1% of the year. I’ve heard of picking low-hanging fruit, but this fruit’s already fallen off the tree and is rotting on the ground.
To the question of “Why not make one [week] meat-free?”, I would answer that COK hasn’t provided a compelling reason to do so. Positioning VegWeek primarily as “a way to discover the many benefits and flavors of vegetarian eating”, promising enticements like “lots of deals, discounts — and you might win prizes”, calling it “a simple way each of us could help the protect the planet”, providing a list of celebrities and politicians who are “touting the many benefits of choosing more plant-based meals” and asking people to “Join the Fun” deftly omits the only reason that truly matters: the violent victimization of billions, if not trillions, of sentient beings every year to satisfy human pleasure, comfort and convenience.
Does COK believe that asking non-vegans to go “meat-free” seven days out of the year (which tacitly condones the consumption of animal flesh the other 358 days per year) is bringing us closer to the abolition of animal exploitation? It’s not as if the animals currently confined and scheduled for execution so that their bodies can be disemboweled, dismembered and distributed for sale in neat packages will be spared that fate when some unknown number of people take a one-week meat vacation this April. The results will be the same as if it never happened – all those animals will die and be eaten soon enough (and then be replaced by other animals forcibly bred into existence for commodification and consumption), and most likely by the same people who didn’t eat them that week. To believe otherwise is to employ a form of magical thinking that is counterproductive to the cause of eliminating the violent oppression of non-human animals.
[For a deeper look at the idea of magical thinking as it relates to animal advocacy and vegan education, please read this essayfrom HumaneMyth.org]
Once again, with this blatantly speciesistcampaign (if the victims were human, no advocacy group would dare encourage a 0.019% effort in helping end their oppression), an organization that appears on the surface to have the best interests of non-human animals in mind fails to take into account the myriad ways these individuals are exploited other than for “meat”, such as for clothing, entertainment, medical testing. Further, asking non-vegans to go “meat-free” may do more harm than good as it has been shown that people who give up meat for a short time tend to increase their consumption of animal secretions such as dairy and eggs to offset their deprivation of meat through that time period. Here is a quote connecting “meatless” campaigns and rises in egg demand and consumption from a 2015 interview on the Diane Rehm show (the specific audio clip comes at about 43:23, a courtesy for those who don’t want to sit through listening to rationalizations and justifications about eggs and “welfare”):
“Just back to that other question about the ‘Meatless’. One of the reasons why the egg industry and demand is going up is because a lot of the families, like one day a week, are having meatless dinners and they’re substituting eggs for that meatless meal, so that’s another good reason why the egg consumption is going up in this country.” – Paul Sauder, president of Sauder Eggs, chairman of the American Egg Board and a board member of United Egg Producers
Interestingly, if that’s the effect of only one meatless meal per week, the net effect of an entire meatless day (3-5 meals?) such as on Meatless Monday or an entire meatless week would be to cause an even greater increase in egg consumption.
It’s also interesting to note that the first person to “officially sign up” for COK’s 7-Day Pledge in 2009, US Congressman Jamie Raskin, is still not even vegetarian 8 years later:
“Energized by his nowmostly vegetarian diet [italics added], which he refers to as ‘aligning my morals with my menu,’ Rep. Raskin continues to encourage others to make kinder, greener, and healthier food choices — and he’s helped VegWeek expand to reach thousands of people nationwide.”
One has to wonder why it takes 8 years (or longer, based on the many non-vegans I keep meeting who’ve been some version of vegetarian for 2, 3 and 4 decades) to align one’s morals and behaviors and whether the “thousands” who have been reached have embarked on similar glacially-paced “journeys”. Could part of the problem be COK’s (and the other large animal welfare organizations’) intentional avoidance of promoting a clear, consistent message that veganism is our minimum moral obligation to the non-human individuals with whom we share this planet? From a business standpoint, such a strategy makes perfect sense as it helps to maximize donations from largely non-vegan donor bases by not asking them to live vegan and allowing them to erroneously feel they’ve discharged their moral responsibilities toward animals by sending money, signing petitions and, in the case of this campaign, taking a week or so off from paying people to exploited and kill vulnerable animals.
In Their Own Words
From the COK website:
“Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) animal advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC, with an additional office in Los Angeles, CA. Working to end animal abuse since 1995, COK focuses on cruelty to animals in agriculture and promotes vegetarian eating as a way to build a kinder world for all of us, both human and nonhuman…”
When we talk about “cruelty”, the conversation becomes about treatment and abuse, rather than use which ultimately is the issue that needs addressing. I stay away from the word “cruelty” in my vegan advocacy for the simple reason that people will define the word in whatever way they see fit in order to justify their continued use of products of animal exploitation. One person’s definition of “cruelty” often differs from the next, which leads to the ideas of “humane” treatment, “humane” slaughter, “free range” and other fantasies the animal agriculture marketing machine foists on the public as some sort of reality.
Non-Profit ≠ Non-Wealthy
More from the COK website:
“Despite our small staff and limited budget, COK’s innovative, cost-effective campaigns are having a tremendous impact.”
According to readily available information, COK’s average total revenue for 2011-2015 was $920,935.80. Perhaps we have differing definitions of “limited”, with mine being considerably under a million dollars annually (by contrast, my non-profit vegan education group received $2615.06 in contributions in 2016, a difference of $918,320.74, which must be the price of choosing to carry a morally consistent message).
[For those who would care to donate to our vegan public education work, here are two links where you can do so. All contributions are tax-deductible and any amount is greatly appreciated!
Not surprisingly, the metrics for tracking COK’s “tremendous impact” are, well, “not available”, according to their profile page on nonprofit tracker guidestar.org:
2. What are the organization’s key strategies for making this happen?
3. What are the organization’s capabilities for doing this?
4. How will they know if they are making progress?
5. What have and haven’t they accomplished so far?
Living Ethically From Weak To Weak(er)
Perhaps if everyone follows COK’s model and spends each of 52 weeks per year taking one week off from a specific form of animal exploitation (let’s say Meat-Free Week followed by Dairy-Free Week followed by Egg-Free Week followed by Honey-Free Week followed by Leather-Free Week followed by Wool-Free Week followed by Silk-Free Week followed by Zoo-Free Week followed by Circus-Free Week followed by Medical Testing-Free Week… ok, we may need to add more weeks to the year), then each of us can say “I’m vegan… but not all at once”.
And so, a new era begins – the Timeshare Approach to Animal Rights! Here’s how it works:
Theoretically, if Compassion Over Killing can convince every non-vegan to coordinate with 51 other non-vegans to each take a yearly rotating one-week shift in the specific “Fill-in-the-blank-form-of-animal-oppression-Free Week” in which they feel most comfortable participating (the one that takes the least amount of energy, commitment and inconvenience while bringing them the most personal benefit), it would almost be as if they successfully created one actual full-time vegan*! Huzzah!
[*I say “as if” because an actual vegan is someone who takes an unwavering ethical stand against the exploitation of non-humans, not someone who takes a few days off here and there as part of someone else’s dilettante effort at “helping animals”]
I’ve been living vegan for about 4476 days now, which is the equivalent of about 639 “7-Day” blocks in a row, and my only regret is that I didn’t start sooner. I’m fully convinced that if someone had clearly explained the ethical components of veganism to me sooner, I would have.
[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimerabout individuals, organizations, groups, external links, opinions, social media groups, products, etc. that may be mentioned in our content.]
Live vegan. Educate others. Start now, here’s how:
[Author’s note – I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. The podcasts and essays connected to those links will help to expand on the ideas presented here.]
Imagine you’re on a crowded bus and it’s your stop. As you exit, you pass the driver whom you know from previous trips and, as usual, wish him a nice day. As he replies, you clearly smell alcohol on his breath and notice his eyes are red and glassy. What do you do?
Do you leave the bus and go about your day, hoping the driver won’t crash the bus and injure or kill himself, the other passengers and possibly some pedestrians and other drivers? Or do you exit and say a little prayer for them all, sending positive energy their way (“Nama-stay-in-your-lane, Mr. Bus Driver!”)? Do you dive into denial and tell yourself you didn’t see what you saw or smell what you smelled, convincing yourself that it’s just your imagination because, after all, you respect this bus driver and he’s a professional? Do you leave the bus and call the bus company to report the driver? Or do you confront him, alert the other passengers to the situation and call 911?
I hope I’m never in such a situation but, if I am, I hope I’d take the kind of action airport security screeners took in Miami on July 1, 2002 when they smelled alcohol on two America West pilots’ breath – they took a stand and did the right thing by calling TSA, who then called the police and (barely) stopped the plane from taking off for Phoenix with 127 passengers and 3 other crew members on board.
What’s this got to do with veganism?
Imagine you’re vegan and you become aware, as I and many others have, that the animal welfare/protection groups you and others trust to carry an anti-speciesist vegan message and work for animal rights are actually doing quite the opposite. What do you do?
Do you continue to support such organizations, either financially or otherwise, and promote them because “at least they’re doing some good work, right?” while ignoring the moral inconsistency of their campaignsthat a) ask for an end or, more often, only a reduction to some forms of violent oppression toward non-human individuals while doing nothing to stop other forms, all of which are equally unjust and morally unacceptable, b) engage in blatant speciesism by advocating for specific favored species rather than working to end all animal use by promoting veganism through vegan education and c) help animal exploiters streamline their productivity and become more profitable? [the list of ways such organizations betray and fail the animals they purport to help is quite long – these were the first three that came to mind]
Do you “hope” that through the promotion of such ideas as vegetarianism, reducetarianism, “ditching meat”, “ditching fur”, eating “cage-free”, “humanely-raised” or “local” animals and their secretions and the myriad other non-vegan dietary and fashion options offered by these organizations, consumers of animal products will somehow “make the connection” – a common phrase among those who promote welfare – stumble into the decision to live vegan (hopefully within a decade or three…) and embrace the ethical stance that lies at the heart of veganism – despite the intentional absence of a clear, consistent vegan message coming from these organizations (I will provide an example of one such organization’s current campaign below)?
Or do you take a stand for justice by removing your support from such organizations and making public their betrayal of animals while focusing your limited time, energy and other resources on engaging in clear, consistent grassroots vegan education that truly addresses the underlying cause of animal exploitation – the fallacy of human supremacy that has created and fostered a paradigm of globalspeciesism claiming the lives of billions of vulnerable individuals every year?
Here’s an example of one such organization and their unwillingness to provide a vegan message at the risk of losing donations and other funding:
I watched a recent video by The Humane League advertising their new chicken-specific 88% Campaign aimed to “reduce their immense suffering” by campaigning “for companies to make meaningful changes”, “address health issues” of birds who will still be killed, “improve living conditions” of birds who will still be killed and “replace slaughter methods”. They purport that “things are starting to change” (this alleged “start” comes after 200+ years of similar animal welfare campaigns – after a solid two centuries, are we to believe that The Humane League has finally cracked the code and is making substantive change with their repackaging of the same methods that have yet to achieve such change? That’s called branding and marketing) and trumpet “some major victories for chickens”, showing a Huffington Post headline stating “There’s A Major New Effort To Help The Billions Of Chickens We Eat Every Year” and “New protections for farm animals in 2017” from the San Francisco Chronicle. Those are feel-good ideas, but the truth behind them is that the so-called “protections” don’t protect these individuals from being killed nor “help” them in any significant way considering they are still destined to be eaten by the billions every year by a largely non-vegan human population. THL goes on to ask that donors “support the movement to reduce the suffering of billions of chickens” (a focus on abuse rather than use, which is at the core of the welfare movement) and that “Together, we can create the change” (accompanied by footage of a chicken gasping for her last breaths). There is, of course, no definition of what “the change” is, so that is left open to interpretation by the viewer who has now seen images of animals being neglected and abused and will likely take away the idea that animal abuse, rather than use, is the problem that needs addressing. When The Humane League’s logo appears seconds later, the deal is sealed – here the viewer is (mis)led to believe THL is diligently working to make “the change”, whatever that is. With three seconds to go in this one minute and forty-one second video, a tiny message appears:
I’ll enlarge the intentionally minuscule message here:
REMEMBER: THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO REDUCE THE SUFFERING OF FARM ANIMAL IS TO ELIMINATE MEAT, DAIRY AND EGGS FROM YOUR DIET.
How is the viewer supposed to “remember” information that has at no point previously been provided to them? Up until that moment, there is no imagery or verbiage in the video to support or even hint at the information in that statement – it’s all about the suffering of chickens. Moreover, that statement would be easily missed as it appears in tiny font at the bottom of the screen after The Humane League’s logo has disappeared and the screen has faded to black. As the video boasts high production values, it isn’t a stretch to say that this sizing, placement and timing is quite intentional. It’s also not a vegan message by any definition, as it excludes any mention of the myriad non-food-related uses of animals and, interestingly, overlooks honey in its menu of dietary items.
In reading the 88% Campaign White Paper, I was not surprised to find the following passages lamenting how the quality of modern chicken meat has been reduced, discussing how to “improve” slaughter conditions and explaining how the implementation of THL’s recommendations for chicken welfare would help the animal agriculture corporations and the consumers of animal products simultaneously:
“The quality of chicken meat is also substantially affected too (sic), with white striping and wooden breast impacting the texture, fat content and nutritional value”. “Meat that comes from birds suffering from woody breast or from those with both conditions are found to have a harder texture, impaired ability to hold water, and poorer nutritional value… White striping by itself also impacts the general appearance of the breast meat… These conditions are forcing the downgrading of meat due to the lack of aesthetic appeal… There is an alternative; breeds exist that can alleviate many of the negative predispositions we see with the current typical fast-growing breeds. By utilising these higher welfare breeds and giving birds more space, enriching the environment, and improving slaughtering conditions using CAK or LAPS, the industry would see an improvement in meat quality [italics added] and, most importantly, an improved level of welfare for the billions of chickens farmed for meat production every year.”
“Slaughter conditions are improved by the use of controlled atmosphere stunning or killing (CAK) which involves transferring the birds to a controlled atmosphere chamber with gases or gas mixtures (gases permitted are carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and inert gases such as argon and nitrogen)… Low atmospheric stunning may also provide a more humane method of slaughter… The birds are thus stunned or killed, depending on the length of exposure to the gases or low pressure. Both methods eliminate the need for live handling, shackling and inversion of conscious chickens, and should ensure chickens are fully unconscious at neck cutting and dead by the time they reach the scald tank.”
This is from a corporation claiming to help animals, yet it sounds eerily like something one would expect to read in an animal agriculture insider publication.
From the SF Chronicle article comes a disturbing quote from THL’s executive director, David Coman-Hidy: “We’re [italics added] looking to raise birds that are not just bred to suffer, that are bred with some consideration to the quality of their lives”. “We’re”?? Does this indicate that The Humane League is now in the business of raising chickens? One has to wonder whether Mr. Coman-Hidy has lost sight of the blurry boundary where his multi-million-dollar corporation and the multi-million-dollar animal agriculture corporations begin and end, or whether he’s simply acknowledging that the two are truly partners in profit. Either way, the quote could just as easily have come from the mouth of any duplicitous farmer seeking to placate animal welfare proponents. I shudder to hear the head of an organization that purports to have the best interests of animals in mind make such a statement.
Sadly, campaigns like this from The Humane League don’t aim to end the use of chickens (or other non-human individuals) for food and other purposes. They simply aim to alter or, to use their marketing terminology, “improve” conditions for chickens that will still be killed for human consumption (their slaughter method improvement recommendations take a page out of PeTA’s book) and, in so doing, increase THL donations, create better and more profitable conditions for the animal suppliers and assure consumers that they can have “higher-welfare” animal products. The one group that loses every time and pays with their lives is the chickens. If this is a “victory”, then it is a victory under some new definition of which I am not aware.
Playing nicely in the sandbox
More often than not, those of us who make the choice to live vegan upon coming to understand, abhor and eschew participation in the injustices being done to non-human individuals tend to speak out against those and other injustices. We carry the message that living vegan is the clearest path toward dismantling speciesism and creating a world in which all sentient beings are given the right to live autonomous lives free from being used without their consent to satisfy the pleasures and conveniences of more powerful others.
When one engages in critical thinking, which is different than being critical and which I believe every social justice advocate ought to do, one can quickly see past the marketing propaganda of the animal welfare corporations (which is similar in form and function to the marketing techniques of the animal exploiters they purport to oppose) and begin to understand just how dishonest they truly are.
I find it interesting and disturbing that, when some of us challenge and call attention to individuals and groups when we see them engaging in intentional deception and manipulation to further their own ends (said deceptions and manipulations resulting in the continued exploitation and needless deaths of animals and increased profits for themselves and animal exploiters), we are told we’re being “divisive” and are rebuked for “not playing well with others”. It’s important to remember that being vegan doesn’t mean one is above reproach nor that one is incapable of being as dishonest, calculating, manipulative and lacking in integrity as any other person, vegan or not. I have observed some of the most “highly regarded” animal advocates engaging in blatantly disingenuous efforts, claiming to be working in the best interests of animals while in reality fostering speciesism and working to advance their careers and make a profit. Examples of this abound in animal welfare corporations and I seem to see more of them by the day. I can think of no reason why I would want to “play” or work with anyone who would choose to behave in such a way, either in vegan advocacy or anywhere else. Boundaries keep individuals and organizations healthy; engaging with toxic individuals and organizations is damaging on many levels.
I recently had the privilege of having a conversation with a paid employee of a multi-million dollar animal welfare organization, though I will not identify that individual or their organization here as I did not ask their permission to do so (it wasn’t my intention to do an interview and exposé) and respect their right to anonymity. Here are the salient points from that discussion:
Despite our obvious philosophical differences when it comes to animal advocacy methodologies (abolitionism vs. utilitarian welfarism), we both agreed that animal exploiters are not the problem and that the real solution lies with educating animal product consumers about veganism. They stated their organization “targets” animal suppliers “but always talks about going veg in our presentations”, and I asked that “veg” be defined, as I found it unclear. They told me “It means vegan”, so I asked why they don’t just say “vegan” if that’s truly what they mean and if it’s because it’s not a “marketable” word, and I was informed that “studies show people respond better to words like veg and vegetarian” (I personally find that approach dishonest – say what you mean and mean what you say – and believe that an organization that asks for one thing when they mean another lacks integrity. I also believe the studies cited are inherently biased and flawed). I asked whether they would agree that, since we as individuals and groups have “limited resources” (their term with which I wholeheartedly agree), a better use of those resources might be to engage the public in clear, consistent vegan education to strike at the root of the problem rather than flailing at the branches that only grow back stronger once they’re pruned. Their answer was a simple “No”.
It was brought to my attention later that this is the only answer one could give to such a question when one’s career depends on a steady stream of income through a steady stream of donations brought in by a steady stream of single-issue campaigns that avoid a clear vegan message in order not to disrupt the status quo of animal use in any meaningful way. After all, the reality is that if animal welfare corporations truly focused their efforts and resources (and hundreds of millions of combined dollars) on getting people to live vegan and brought an end to animal exploitation, they would have to shutter up their businesses and go find other work… and that’s just not something careerists are interested in doing when they’ve carved out a comfortable niche for themselves.
With the current animal welfare movement heading in no discernible direction (backward seems to be the most likely choice), abolitionist vegans face an uphill battle that’s twofold – 1) educate the non-vegan public about veganism and 2) educate fellow vegans about the inherent and systemic hypocrisy of the animal welfare corporations and the single-issue marketing campaigns they frequently design and implement (and recycle and repeat) in order to keep the donor dollars rolling in. If we truly want to create “the change” – changing the animals-as-property paradigm that that allows for and demands the morally unjustifiable enslavement, exploitation and execution of billions of non-human individuals every year for no better reason than to satisfy the fleeting pleasures, comforts and conveniences of humans – this is how we do it:
Live vegan. Educate others. Start now, here’s how:
Can someone explain to me why The Humane League, an animal welfare group that received a ONE MILLION DOLLAR GRANT a year ago, needs to put on a $50.00-per-ticket fundraising gala 20 miles from my house today??? Have they fallen on hard times already? Did they accidentally drop the million down a sewer or leave it on a bus? They certainly didn’t spend it on educating people about veganism, as that would conflict with their stated speciesist purposes (more about that below).
With any luck and by keeping our windows closed, we won’t be able to smell the plant-based hypocrisy wafting in from Ft. Lauderdale this evening.
[WARNING: this essay contains pockets of sarcasm (from the Greek word sarkasmos, meaning “to tear flesh” – not very vegan of me, I know, but it’s metaphorical so I’m going with it). If my frustration with animal welfare organizations’ humaneshit were radioactive, I’d be melting Geiger counters right now]
Marketing – lies designed to separate you from your money and your morals
One would think that an organization with at least a cool million in the bank and that ended 2014 with $968,246.00 in total revenue might throw a sell-out-bration on their own dime rather than acting like they need a handout…
…but that would presuppose that such a speciesist organization (they focus exclusively on farm animals to the exclusion of other exploited non-humans) is interested in more than self-branding and maximizing donations by working extremely hard to convince donors and the world at large that they are “making a difference for animals” through their “online and community-based vegetarianadvocacy programs”. Sadly, it’s a very profitable farce that moves us no closer to ending animal use as their campaigns stay stuck in the same old “cage-free-by-2025-but-still-exploited (-and-ultimately-killed) -every-day-until-and-after-that-time” mentality. That’s what they call a “victory” – eight years from now, chickens will still be exploited and killed… but at least they won’t be in cages when it happens. Since the average life span of egg-laying hens is 2 years, that “victory” will happen 4 generations of chickens from now. Another shining “victory” from The Humane League was convincing United Egg Producers to utilize “in-ovo egg sexing technology” to “enable the termination of all male-identified eggs from the hatchery, preventing them from ever being hatched and culled”, as male chicks are useless (read: profitless) by-products of the egg industry and are currently either ground alive or left to suffocate to death on the first – and only – day of their lives. Unless I’m missing something, this sounds perversely like chicken abortions. And unless I’m missing something else, it seems that The Humane League is overlooking the fact that if it’s wrong to kill male chickens, it’s equally wrong to kill female chickens, and yet their campaigns regarding those individuals seem to end at ensuring cage-free executions.
I’m baffled that so many people are either unwilling or unable to see that when a group such as this (and all the other large animal welfare corporations) partners with institutional animal exploiters to create and promote “humane” ways to use animals rather than actually working to end animal use, that is still a very clear and direct promotion of animal use… and that use is funded by donations from galas like the one here on February 4 and others around the country.
Denial of reality never changes reality. It only leads to a state of willful ignorance.
Can You Say “Conflict of Interest”?
Some would undoubtedly point out that The Humane League was “Named ‘Top Charity ‘by Animal Charity Evaluators 4 years in a row”, however it is a dubious honor for several reasons, most notably due to the fact that THL’s founder, Nick Cooney, “…has been the main person responsible for producing the pseudoscientific research that ACE relies upon to justify its belief in the effectiveness of interventions, which is the allegedly objective basis for its unfailingly consistent recommendation of Cooney’s charities [which include the speciesist and profit-motivated Mercy for Animals and the Good Food Institute– Editor]; and moreover, when Cooney became involved in a new charity lacking any track record, ACE suspended its normal criteria in order to recommend it. At the very minimum, Cooney’s thinking has had a great degree of influence on ACE’s thinking.” – Re-evaluating Animal Charity Evaluators, 12/22/2016
So, this means this “top charity” was chosen by ACE based on criteria designed and presented by… [drum roll] …the head of the charity they’re supposedly “objectively evaluating”??? The stacking of that deck is higher than H$U$ President and CEO Wayne Pacelle’s salary (a paltry $392,107 in 2015).
The sad and certain bottom line is this:
A donation to The Humane League (or any other animal “welfare”/”protection” organization) represents direct financial complicity in institutionalized animal exploitation. Tragically, through clever and deceptive marketing, animal welfare organizations have convinced vegans to fund the exact injustices they stridently oppose. I speak from personal experience because I fell victim to this trap for years and when I learned the truth, I felt betrayed. What I know today is that with awareness comes responsibility and that, once aware, continuing down the same path makes me not a victim but a volunteer.
I can only imagine the good The Humane League could do if they were to focus their time, energy, wealth and considerable marketing acumen on engaging in clear, consistent vegan education, but to do so would risk alienating their non-vegan donor base so it’s simply not an option.
I see that the gala has sold out. That makes sense since The Humane League has already sold out the animals.
I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. The podcasts and essays connected to those links will help to expand on the ideas presented here.
Live vegan. Educate others. Start now, here’s how:
The t-shirt I wore recently when Elena and I were in Lake Worth sparked a nice conversation with a stranger. As we passed a gentleman on the street, he smiled and commented, “Love your shirt!”. I thanked him and we continued on.
On our way back, we decided to give him our Embracing Veganism pamphlet and our card. We ended up talking with him and his companion about veganism for about 15 minutes. As it turns out, our new friend Alex has been vegan for a year and is currently studying plant-based nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. Although he said he’s vegan for ethical reasons and seems to understand the fundamental issues of justice involved, he stated, “Even if people reduce their meat consumption, that helps… although I hate even saying that.” My reply was, “Then don’t say it! When we make statements like that and encourage people to ‘reduce’, we’re tacitly implying that some animal exploitation is still acceptable. Would you suggest to anyone that some use of child pornography is ok as long as they take weekends off and treat the kids ‘humanely’?” He laughed and said, “No, of course not. Thanks, that makes so much sense!”
I assured him we’re not in the habit of just handing literature to random people in the street and hoping something in the content will get them to make the connection that all animal use is morally unjustifiable and start living vegan, but that we had done quite a bit of that in the past in support of various animal welfare organizations and ultimately found it ineffective and counterproductive (especially considering such literature intentionally fails to focus on animal use as opposed to abuse). I asked him to consider whether, if I were an astrophysics professor who really wanted people to become astrophysicists, he felt it would be reasonable to expect that, by standing in the street and handing out astrophysics textbooks to passersby (“Go astrophysicist…?”), those people would go home, read the books, have epiphanies and suddenly decide to become astrophysicists. Alex replied, “No”. I said, “That’s why there are classes on that subject – because some things require education– and that’s why we created a vegan education group.” He agreed and complimented me for “…not just randomly handing information to people, but having an educational platform to back it up.”
Choosing the Message We Carry, and Carrying the Message We Choose
I used to wear rock-n-roll t-shirts every chance I got and have always had a knack for picking out a shirt in the morning that would prompt a conversation sometime that day, so I would inevitably end up talking with people about Paul McCartney, or Elvis Costello, or Fountains of Wayne and so on… and as much as I love those shirts, I’ve retired them all to the closet. Here’s why – while those conversations can be fun (“You like Utopia Parkway too? Let’s chat!”), I’d much rather talk about, educate about and inspire veganism. I still have that knack for picking the right shirt and the conversations still happen, only now they’re meaningful in a way that matters deeply to me and makes real change in the world. Whenever I’m at a concert (and I am a confirmed concert junkie…), the people behind me will be seeing a vegan message for about three hours – rather than, say, a list of Counting Crows 2003 tour dates – and I’m more than willing to discuss their thoughts on it once the show’s over. If that opportunity doesn’t present, at the very least I’ve given them something to think about.
Similarly, since the subject in which I want to engage people is veganism, I no longer wear shirts that promote single-issue campaigns like circuses, rodeos, etc. or the animal welfare organizations behind such campaigns (I’ve donated quite a few to the homeless). Also, I no longer wear shirts that talk about going “veg” or anything other than vegan, as such vague terminology leads us away from being clear and consistent in our efforts to end the injustice of animal exploitation. As it’s been difficult to find shirts with uncompromising vegan messages (aside from the one pictured above), I’ve begun designing my own for personal use. That way, I can be sure the message I carry is one in which I wholeheartedly believe.
The Theory of Positive, Neutral and Negative
I’ve found that when interacting with a stranger, the usual outcome falls into one of three categories: Positive, Neutral and Negative. Positive means that something positive transpires during or as a result of the interaction (i.e.; a friend or connection is made, pleasantries and/or ideas are exchanged); Neutral means nothing notable happens (though one never can tell how a seemingly random encounter may profoundly alter one’s life, which may indicate a 4th category – Neutral-Positive); Negative means something unpleasant resulted from the interaction (i.e.; harsh words are exchanged, disagreement or worse happens). For me, this means there’s at least a 66% chance (2/3 or better) that speaking with a stranger will result in either a positive or neutral/neutral-positive outcome and only a 33% or less chance that it will result in a negative outcome.
If you’re vegan, chances are you can identify with the following statements:
“I find it frustrating that non-vegans are either unable or unwilling to understand and agree with the simple concept that, if one believes it’s wrong to harm and kill animals unnecessarily, then the only sensible solution is to start living vegan. Logic proves this while profit-driven marketing propaganda claims there are ‘humane’ ways to exploit and kill innocent, vulnerable beings. If only non-vegans would listen to the facts!”
If you’re abolitionist vegan, chances are you can identify with the following statements:
“I find it frustrating that vegans who support animal welfare ideology are either unable or unwilling to understand and agree with the simple concept that welfarism – despite seeming to be well-intentioned – has not worked, is not working and will not work as a means of dismantling speciesism and ending the use of animals for the satisfaction of fleeting human pleasures and conveniences. Empirical evidence proves this while self-serving pseudoscienceclaims the opposite is true. If only welfarists would listen to the facts!”
[Note: identifying as an abolitionist vegan does not necessitate aligning oneself with, interacting with, promoting or otherwise supporting any particular individual, group, community, website or social media page(s). Please see our Disclaimer for more details. SFVEGdoes, however, find great benefit in sharing ideas, advocacy strategies and support with other abolitionist vegans whose approaches and sensibilities resonate with our own. Let’s talk!]
In both of the above cases, the innate human characteristics of selfishness (“What’s in it for me?”), laziness (“How much energy am I going to have to spend on this?”) and a desire to be right at all costs (“I’m right, you’re wrong… and I’m also right!”) set up stumbling blocks to accepting new and vital information. The result is defensiveness born of cognitive dissonance (“If what you’re telling me is true, that means my firmly-held beliefs are wrong and I’ll need to make significant changes… and that can’t be simply because it can’t be, so clearly you’re wrong and I’m right because I believe I’m right!”) and an almost impenetrable wall of denial is immediately constructed.
What do we do when we encounter seemingly insurmountable resistance to our vegan message? Do we tell ourselves the cause is lost, let it go and move on to someone more receptive to the message we’re carrying? Sure, that’s tempting – we only have so many hours in the day, so many ways to say what we want to say and so much energy to put forth… or do we try to remember that, in both cases, the lives of vulnerable sentient beings hang in the balance and rise to this challenge by doing our level best to present our case, knowing that we must advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves just as we would want others to do for us were we in a similarly vulnerable position? In each and every situation in which we have the opportunity to talk about veganism with others, we have a choice to make – educate or retreat.
As you listen to those who support animal welfare ideology, you will hear some frequently repeated phrases, all of which seem to have merit on the surface:
“It’s a start.”
“Every little bit helps.”
“It doesn’t matter what we do as long as we’re doing something.”
“We don’t have to use the word ‘vegan‘ to get a vegan message across.”
“If we ask people to go vegan, we’ll push them away.”
“We’re all abolitionists, but people won’t go vegan overnight. Welfare will get us there faster.”
“The best way to get people to go vegan is to cook them a yummy vegan meal. Don’t talk to them about the animals.”
Here is one generally accepted definition of the word “insanity”:
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Where do these ideas intersect?
Our Best Thinking Got Us Here
“It’s a start”, “Every little bit helps” and similar sentiments have been among the rallying cries of the animal welfare movement since it began over 200 years ago. Despite recent pseudoscientific “studies” by welfare organizations that intentionally distort reality by skewing their own data to support their own specious claims that “X-million fewer animals were killed” and “suffering has been greatly reduced” by promoting Meatless Monday, distributing speciesist literature and other single-issue animal welfare campaigns or SICs (many of which are of their own creation), here is where the greatest minds and intentions of the “leaders” and “fathers” of the animal welfare movement have gotten us: today, an ever-increasing number of non-human individuals (now in the trillions each year) are being enslaved, exploited and executed for the satisfaction of human pleasure and convenience.
If it’s true that “every little bit helps”, shouldn’t that number be decreasing rather than increasing? If fill-in-the-blank is a “start”, shouldn’t two centuries have been sufficient to see at least some forward movement rather than what appears to be momentum in the opposite direction?
A decade of promoting, engaging in and supporting welfaristsingle-issue campaigns left me with me ten years’ worth of firsthand experiencein just how ineffective and counterproductive they are – Lolita the killer whale is nearing her 50th year in captivity, circuses continue to use animals (and pimp their captives into medical “research” and zoo breeding programs), people still wear fur and buy puppies from puppy mills and grocery stores continue to sell live lobsters to people they know are going to brutally kill them. These are just some of the failed campaigns to which I and numerous others devoted our time and energy. I deeply regret not having allowed myself to realize sooner that this simply does not work. The photo of me below neatly illustrates the ineffectiveness of such “advocacy” (see photo caption for details):
Veganism Is Not A “Goal” To Be Reached – It’s The Starting Point Of A New Life
Convincing a non-vegan to choose a vegan option (garden salad vs. cottage cheese, for example) is not a “start” – it’s a momentary food choice that makes zero impact in how that person views the exploitation of non-human animals. It moves them no closer to wanting an end to speciesist injustices than does taking a chicken wing out of their hand and replacing it with an apple (because it does not explain anything about the underlying issues), nor does it instill in them the idea that “Vegan food is awesome – I probably could do this vegan thing after all!” Like nearly everyone, they’ve been eating “vegan” (in reality, “plant-based” is the more accurate term) food their whole lives – fruit, grains, nuts, seeds, etc. – and yet remain non-vegan because they’ve yet to be educated about the moral and ethical reasons for living vegan.
“It’s a start” gets us nowhere. Getting in a car and turning the key in the ignition is a “start”, but unless one has a clear direction and goal, the car and those in it go nowhere or, at best, end up driving around aimlessly. If we were to put all the large animal welfare/protection corporations in a bus and then told them the destination is “the end of animal use” (one they would hopefully, but not definitely, all agree on), each of them would suggest a different route to get there, and each of them would want to drive their way based on their belief that theirs is the best and fastest route… and the one that brings each of their organizations the most donations.
Like It Or Not, Animal Welfare Ideologies ReinforceSpeciesism
When the victims of a particular injustice are non-human individuals, speciesism is usually the unconscious default position. For those unfamiliar with the word, here’s a definition:
Speciesism(spe·cies·ism) – noun – by analogy with racism and sexism, an unjust double standard placing higher moral value on some individual animals over others, based solely on the morally irrelevant criterion of species membership.
Second only to non-humans, children are the most vulnerable societal group. Even though many people may be uncomfortable with the idea of equating humans and non-humans in any way, drawing parallels here is appropriate and necessary to the discussion. That very discomfort alone exposes the speciesism pervasive in our society, just as discomfort with equating white people and people of color would expose underlying racism.
Knowing that the creation, possession, use and other consumption of child pornography is always wrong, morally unacceptable and represents a grievous oppressive injustice toward a vulnerable group (except, of course, in the minds of those who benefit either personally or professionally from it), we would NEVER take the position that child pornography creators, purveyors or consumers should “cut back” on their consumption, create/sell/purchase/obtain “less” of it, use “less explicit” images/videos, consume it only 6 days a week instead of 7, only view images and videos of certain races, ages or genders of children rather than all or engage in some but not all consumption of it on one’s “journey” to becoming ready to make a full commitment to stopping. We would NEVER petition for more “humane” working conditions for the child victims of the pornography industry, thereby making a concession that supports the continuation of the oppression as long as it’s done “humanely”. And we would NEVER display child pornography in public places, on the street or post it on social media in order to show people just how horrible it is… [Warning – Speciesism Ahead!]…
…and yet, because this is animal exploitation and not human exploitation, we set up different sets of standards and engage in everything we would find unacceptable if the victims were human, conveniently overlooking the fact that exploitation is exploitation irrespective of species and that, in the interests of fairness and justice, the same standards ought to apply.
Why Not Apply Animal Welfare Ideologies To Racism?
Speciesism, rooted in the myth of human superiority, begets racism (and other forms of oppression). Imagine how one might react to the following line of thinking:
“Yes, we believe that all racial discrimination is wrong, but let’s just start with helping end injustices toward African-Americans since they are, in our opinion, the ‘most oppressed’ [insert “facts” and “figures” to support this argument]. We’ll obviously mention Asians, Latinos and other oppressed groups so they’re not entirely left out of the conversation, but we won’t focus on them right now because it’s ‘asking too much’ and we don’t want to push people away by being too ‘demanding’ and asking for an end to all racial discrimination. Remember, every little bit helps.”
If you think this sounds unacceptable (which it is), consider this statement from animal “protection” group Mercy for Animals from July 2016:
“Because chickens are much smaller than pigs or cows, many more of them need to be killed to get the same poundage of meat. Comprising 95 percent of the land animals raised and killed for food in the U.S., chickens also lead some of the most miserable lives of all farmed animals.
But that’s just the beginning.”
Interestingly, the last phrase bears a striking resemblance to “It’s a start”.
The MFA Vegetarian Starter Guide (why would an organization that wants people to live vegan put out anything but a vegan starter guide?) states that “The truly humane choice is to cut out or cut back on (italics added for emphasis) chicken, fish, and other animal products”, fostering the idea that some animal use is ok as long as one “cuts back”. It goes on: “Start by cutting out the foods that harm the most animals… By simply replacing chicken, eggs, and fish with other options (like beef, pork, turkey and lamb? You didn’t specify “plant-based” options), you can prevent a tremendous amount of animal abuse.” MFA also makes the following encouraging statements: “If you give in to a craving for meat, don’t beat yourself up about it. Remember that perfection isn’t the goal here—none of us is perfect. It’s far better to eat mostly vegetarian [<—how is “mostly vegetarian” defined? Perhaps the publication should be retitled “Mostly Vegetarian Starter Guide”] than to do nothing at all. Show yourself compassion if you have a setback…” This guide is one of the most speciesist pieces of litter-ature I’ve ever had the displeasure to read and, as such, I will not link to it here.
Would anyone support such a stance if the victims of one’s cravings-induced “setback” were human? Consider:
“Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself, Mr. Serial Killer. After all, you used to kill 12 people per year at a rate of one per month and now you’ve nearly ditched killing altogether since you only kill one person every three months! Quarterly killing is far more acceptable than monthly killing, and we all know just how difficult those cravings to kill can be, so go easy on yourself. It’s progress, not perfection!”
If we claim to work for social justice but refuse to use clear and morally consistent messaging to indicate we want a full end to the oppression of non-humans, our lack of clarity becomes a tacit (and sometimes overt) message that some oppression is acceptable while some is not, and the failure of others to hear a clear, consistent, honest message becomes our responsibility because we are choosing not to provide one. Hence, the continuation of animal exploitation becomes our responsibility since we’re essentially giving people permission to continue oppressing the vulnerable rather than seizing the opportunity to make our case clear from the outset and ongoing that all animal use is wrong and all animal use needs to end. Delivering a deliberately dishonest message brings one’s integrity into question and runs parallel to the dishonest marketing messages used by animal agriculture and other oppressive industries, which puts one squarely on the same level as them. I can’t imagine any vegan advocate wants that.
What We’re Doing Matters
Finally, remember this statement from the beginning of the essay?
“It doesn’t matter what we do as long as we’re doing something.”
What we do as vegan advocates matters a great deal, as it is an indicator of who we are. If we choose to engage in animal welfare campaigns – or promote and support the groups who design them – that are speciesist, racist, sexist, misogynist, xenophobic, ableist, heterosexist, classist, body-shaming, violent, disrespectful to the victims of oppression, misinforming, misleading or blatantly dishonest because we feel the end (abolition of animal use) justifies the means (anything goes as long as we get there), then we are supporting one or more forms of oppression while advocating against another, and that calls into question the integrity of those who do so. This weakens our power to effect change and reinforces the mythology that vegans are unreasonable, fanatical extremists who should be either avoided at all costs or mercilessly mocked. When this happens, the message is lost.
“It’s a start” gets us nowhere. If animal welfare were the Olympics, these million false starts would result in disqualifications, and they have gotten us no closer to the finish line of abolishing animal use. If you want to be an effective vegan advocate, there is only one truly effective start: