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.
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.
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.
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.
“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”.
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.
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