Tag Archives: Vegan Outreach

Vegan Outreach – Proudly Creating… Vegetarians?!?

VO essay 001

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

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

…he’s STILL not vegan.

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

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

The Problem

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

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

It is shameful that an organization calling itself “Vegan” Outreach would shy away from asking people to live vegan in a clear and coherent manner.  Instead, their literature reinforces the ideas that eating vegetarian is enough and that the enslavement of non-humans is a personal choice.  If one’s goal is to convince people to take a strong and unyielding moral stance against the exploitation of vulnerable sentient individuals, it’s hardly a good idea to cater to and enable the inherent laziness and selfishness of the general public in an effort to achieve that goal.  Such a strategy is in itself lazy and disingenuous and simply will not work.

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

VO essay 004
What are these “positive changes for animals”? Surely “Vegan” Outreach knows better than to believe vegetarianism falls in that category.

 

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

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

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

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

 As a committed abolitionist vegan, not only will I never hand a Compassionate Choices (or other Vague-an Outreach) booklet to another human being again in my life, but I would rather not hold such a piece of purposeful disinformation in my own hand ever again… unless on my way to a shredder.

The Solution

Veganism is:

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

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

speciesism-006

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

Violent oppression SFVEG poster 001

 

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

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Disclaimer

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

    hsus-bacon-coupon-2015

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

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

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

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